This fall, students, alumni, faculty, and staff from the School of Social Policy & Practice gathered together for the School’s LGBTQ Summit. LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer and/or Questioning.

“When we talk about diversity, inclusion, and excellence at Penn, we have to be holistic and expansive enough in our thinking to realize that LGBTQ issues [and] concerns are central to our educational and social mission,” explained Dean John L. Jackson, Jr.

“It is thus only fitting for SP2 to carve out a space of intellectual and institutional leadership on this front, and the Summit [was] an attempt to make sure that we are educating ourselves to be as rigorous and respectful as we can on issues of gender and sexuality.”

The group discussed current LGBTQ challenges including how LGBTQ issues are addressed in curricula, how to create safe spaces for LGBTQ community members and allies, and how well-equipped faculty and staff are to discuss LGBTQ topics.

As a first step in acknowledging common concerns identified during the conversation, the School is establishing the SP2 LGBTQ Advisory Committee, which will gather students, alumni, faculty, and staff to continually address LGBTQ issues and promote positive change at SP2 and, ultimately, the University.

The School is pursuing LGBTQ training for faculty and staff to promote safe and inclusive classrooms. At the suggestion of QSP2, a group created to represent LGBTQ students and allies, faculty members are encouraged to use of Preferred Gender Pronouns in their classrooms. PGPs are the pronoun or set of pronouns a person prefers others to use when referring to them.

“Pronouns may not seem like a big deal at first, but for anyone who has ever tried to refrain from using pronouns in their everyday life, the difficulty of doing so, specifically within the English language is apparent,” the group explained in an email sent to faculty and staff.

“Thus, an attempt to respect a person’s preferred pronoun, or to at least use a gender-neutral pronoun, instead of making assumptions about gender, can make a huge difference in interacting with others and making them feel comfortable.”

This Spring, part-time lecturer, Allan Irving, PhD, will teach a course on LGBTQ community and social policy. This will be the first course of its kind at SP2. Irving is a founding member of an advocacy group in Swarthmore on LGBTQ issues.

Additionally, a recent donation established the SP2 LGBTQ Junior Faculty Research Fund, which invites junior faculty members to apply for a stipend to research LGBTQ issues. The Fund is currently open and accepting applications.